Someone Has to Break the Cycle of Retaliation – Reflection on MLK Jr

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Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 2.42.50 PM.pngSomeone has to break the cycle of retaliation…

Let that sink in. Read it again.

Someone has to break the cycle of retaliation.

A week doesn’t go by without stories of hatred, bigotry, violence, rape, atrocities committed against humanity. Stories bombard us from abroad and from our own communities.

One way to respond is to build bigger and better walls. Let’s protect what we can. Better alarm systems. Better lighting. More surveillance. Bigger walls. More guns. Keep the evil out.

That’s one way to respond.

And violence and atrocities continue to march on. Nothing changes.

Someone has to break the cycle of retaliation.

The cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate breaking of the cycle of vengeance and retaliation. The cross is God saying, “I’ll take it all. Bring it! Bring the hatred. Bring the violence. Bring the evil. Bring the violence. Bring the frustration. Bring the pain. Bring it! I’ll take it all!”

On Good Friday, Jesus bore the brunt of sin and evil. Jesus bore it all.

And by rising from the grave on resurrection Sunday, Jesus crushed hatred, violence, frustration, pain, and evil.

What our world needs is not better ways to keep people out and apart. What we need, and what our world needs is a people called and a people who will answer the call the break the cycle of evil and retaliation with the hope and love of God in Jesus Christ.

May we be such people. May this be the generation that turns the cycle of violence and retaliation.


Whatever You Do, Don’t Follow Your Heart

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Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 3.13.48 PM.png“What does your heart tell you?”

“Follow your heart.”

Sounds right. It makes for great movies and stories. The main character pursuing what they know to be right, but their heart being tugged in a different direction…and in the critical moment, they choose to follow after their heart…and everything ends up happy ever after.

Everything…happy…ever after.

Yeah. That happens in the movies. That rarely happens in real life.

The problem with the heart is that the heart is wrong more often than not. At one time the heart thought Lisa was the one…then it thought Jane was the one…then at another time, the heart was sure Jenny was the one…The heart lies. The heart has no clue.

The heart has no boundaries. The heart has no concern for morals. The heart doesn’t have any other loyalty other than getting its desires met NOW!

Thing is, people have followed after their hearts and left their spouse and children, leaving devastation in its wake. Why? Because it felt so right. I was just following my heart.

People have followed their hearts and ignored all the warning signs, all the statistics, all reason that clearly showed it couldn’t possibly work out and find themselves in impossible and violent relationships.

The heart can’t be trusted.

So what do you do?

Do what’s good and right.

Things are good and right because…they are.

So please…for your sake…whatever you do…do not follow your heart. Do what’s right and good.

Faith and the Idolization of Individualism

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As Americans, there are fewer things we value more than our individualism.

This idolization of individualism has lead to a myriad of issues. One of the serious consequences of this individualism is putting the self at the center of what is and what is not true. In this highly individualistic culture, the self has become the ultimate determinant for what is true and what is not.

  • No longer do we accept a higher authority – God – as the determiner of what is right or wrong. If what God says doesn’t jive with me and my  experience, my personal experience trumps God’s standards.
  • No longer do we accept a shared-cultural understanding of social and moral norms.
  • What works for you doesn’t work for me. As long as what I believe and what I do doesn’t hurt you, who are you to tell me that what I’m doing is wrong?

One of the problems of this heightened individualism is that the individual experience is never sufficient for properly understanding the world around us.

We need the voice and the experiences of others. We need the wisdom and the value of others to help us to get a proper perspective of the world. Our understanding and our perspective will always be limited and incomplete without the voice of others.

I write all this because, it seems to me, the idolization of individualism has worked its way in how American Christians view our faith. We place our individualistic experience, our personal understanding of what God says above all other authorities. We have a hard time submitting to the understanding, teaching, and the authority of the church.

What we seek – the connection between who God is and who we are on a personal level – is not a bad thing. This is, in fact, a good thing. Who God is must make a difference at a personal level.

However, how we pursue this as individuals in a culture that has made an idol of individualism is the problem.

Faith, by its very nature is communal. Faith is never the possession of one. Faith belongs to the community. Faith is birthed in community. Faith is nurtured in community.

And it’s in community our communal sharing of life and faith that faith begins to make sense to the individual person. You take the individual outside of faith, and a faith experience apart from community is a mutation. Such faith is not what God ever intended.

Faith is birthed, shaped, formed, and lived out in community.

How Much Do You Have to Hate Someone to Not Evangelize?

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Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller is a self-avowed and vocal athiest. He tells of a time when he was given a Bible by someone after one of his shows and Penn says:

I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there is certain point where I tackle you. And is this more important than that…”


Love Them Anyway

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Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 3.36.08 PMPeople are often unreasonable and self centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa

For Whatever You Are Going Through — God is Faithful

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Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 11.19.05 AMIf God of the universe is worthy of our trust with our eternal souls, how could we not trust him for whatever this day holds?

  • God is with you.

  • You are never where God has not already been.

  • Love triumphs over darkness.

  • Death has already lost.

  • God loves you.

  • You are not alone.

God will bring you through whatever it is you are going through.

Which is Crazier?

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Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 6.07.18 PMOne of the oddest parables of Jesus is the Parable of the Persistent Widow found in Luke 18:1-8.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow who kept coming to him with the plea,’Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even thought I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!'”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

It is an absurd parable…a widow who goes to someone who doesn’t care, someone who is unjust, someone who doesn’t give a rip to pesters him day and night. It makes no sense. It’s crazy. It’s nonsense.

Which is crazier?

A widow who goes to an unjust judge? Or Christians who have been promised a God who infinitely cares and a God who loves to answer prayers, and they don’t?